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Turnberry sure to stay on Open rota, vows Peter Dawson

Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the Royal & Ancient, last night emphasised that it would be "unthink­able" not to have Turnberry on the Open rota.

Bradley Neil, the Amateur champion from Blairgowrie, puts in some practice at Royal Liverpool yesterday. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA
Bradley Neil, the Amateur champion from Blairgowrie, puts in some practice at Royal Liverpool yesterday. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA

Speaking on the eve of the 143rd championship at Hoylake, Dawson spoke highly of the Ayrshire course's popularity among the players and its potential for drama. Despite the recent addition of Royal Portrush to the Open rota, Dawson had dismissed fears that Turnberry would be sacrificed during a press conference at last month's Amateur Championship when he stated that other venues would not be "substituted".

Donald Trump's acquisition of the Turnberry resort, and his planned changes to a number of the Ailsa's course's key holes at nine, 10 and 11, have been largely welcomed by the R&A, which last took its flagship event there in 2009.

Dawson said: "Turnberry is very popular with the players and has provided a huge amount of drama in the past. It is unthinkable that it wouldn't be an Open venue. We have talked about these changes for a number of years, to be fair. The 10th and 11th in particular are two holes that have been looked at.

"They are thinking about other things, I understand, and the detail for that is far from complete. I believe that includes the ninth and they have assured us that we will be consulted in due course.

"It would be wrong to say we are working together [with Trump] because we are not yet. But we know that he is doing it and we know some of what he is planning."

Before today's opening round at Royal Liverpool, Dawson reacted to reports that the Open's long-running contract with the BBC would come to an end when the current deal expires after the 2016 championship. Two years ago, he expressed some dissatisfaction with the BBC's golf coverage and said: "It is a concern. They have to keep up with the advances in tech­nology in broadcasting."

The Open is now the only men's golf event the BBC broadcasts for all four days on a dwindling sporting portfolio, and with mounting pressure from other sources, the ­feeling exists that the Open will inevit­ably disappear from terrestrial television.

Dawson added: "We have had an extremely long relationship with the BBC and a very happy one. I think it's now 59 years since the Open was first televised on the BBC. Our current contract runs through 2016. Being a rights holder, we obviously have to balance that long-term relationship and the high viewership of the BBC against commercial considerations.

"The value of golf rights has accelerated dramatically, particularly in the US over the last 12 months. That's perhaps a bigger item in the equation than it might otherwise have been. But it's massively premature to ­speculate on what might occur."

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